Stop Means-testing Love

British citizens are separated from their wives or husbands — if they hold foreign passports — if the British partner earns below £18,600. Or, to put that another way, almost half of the British population do not earn enough to fall in love with a foreigner. This is cruel and un-British.
Tim Farron MP, former Liberal Democrat leader

This Valentine’s day, help us raise awareness for fair treatment for international couples

It’s simply not fair and not right that only richer couples should be allowed to live together.

Mixed-nationality couples are forced by our government to live apart if they earn less than £18,600. Almost half of all British people cannot afford to fall in love with a foreigner. Stop Means-testing Love. #ScrapTheSpousalIncomeTest

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Our couples

* Dogs in these photographs are portrayed by actors. Stories are fictionalised versions of scenarios that affect many (human) mixed-nationality couples.


But surely if you’re married to someone British you’re automatically allowed to live here?

Nope — not since the early 2000s. The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 forbade any “recourse to public funds” — i.e., benefits — to people who had recently immigrated, and their households. There was, shortly after, introduced an assumption that if a couple did not earn about £16,000 (varying according to circumstances), then they would require benefits to survive and therefore the non-British partner could not be permitted to live in the UK. This was subsequently replaced by a stricter threshold whereby the British partner had to be earning £18,600,

Following a recent Supreme Court judgement, some other assets and income sources were allowed to be taken into account — although given that the non-British partner is likely not to have a UK job lined up before being granted a visa, this may be of limited use — and couples where the British partner is in receipt of disabiity benefits are judged by the only slightly more lenient “no recourse to public funds” test.

And Lib Dems oppose these rules?

Following campaigning by Lib Dem Immigrants and many others, party policy was changed in 2018 to be: if you are married to someone British, you should be allowed to live here with them; rich or poor.

The Conservative Party supports making the income threshold stricter; Labour supports a return the “no recourse to public funds” means-testing. We feel that both of these are discriminatory against couples where one partner is not British, and especially against couples where one or both partners are disabled.

Why are you comparing immigrants to dogs? Isn’t that offensive?

If we are, we’re comparing British people to dogs too! Use of anthropomorphised animals in political and social argument has a long history, from Aesop’s Fables to Maus. It can give a different perspective on the situation.

What’s the Lib Dem policy on [other aspect of immigration]?

See our summary of Party Policy

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